One of the conditions that we offer treatments at Colorado Primary Health Care is for Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia affects the way an individual’s brain processes pain, therefore amplifying the actual pain sensations that affect one’s body. Often times, Fibromyalgia is a disorder that tends to be misdiagnosed or unrecognized and is instead mistaken for a mood disorder. Read the article below for more information.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain that is often accompanied by fatigue, depression, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment, and digestive and urinary symptoms.
It is a poorly understood disorder in which pain signals processed by the brain appear to be exaggerated, amplifying the sensation of pain in muscles and soft tissues. There are no tests to identify it, so fibromyalgia is diagnosed by excluding other possible causes.
Treatment may involve over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants, physical therapy, self-care, and medications specifically approved to treat fibromyalgia.
What does fibromyalgia feel like?
It’s about more than just muscle aches and joint pain. It is persistent, widespread pain that can move through the body in waves, causing sensations described as throbbing, diffuse, intense, or stabbing. Even mild changes in temperature or pressure (including touch) may trigger discomfort.
While some people maintain fairly consistent levels of symptoms, others will go through periods of remission alternating with periods of activity (flares). Beyond pain, fibromyalgia is associated with an almost dizzying array of symptoms affecting multiple organ systems. They include:
- Fatigue, usually chronic, affecting four out of five people with the disorder
- Muscle and joint symptoms such as muscle spasms, muscle weakness, and jaw pain
- Cognitive symptoms such as the loss of concentration, disorientation, and “brain fogs”
- Sleep disorders such as broken sleep, sleep starts, and insomnia
- Neurosensory symptoms such as vertigo, migraine, or sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
- Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or cramping
- Urinary symptoms including bladder pain, pain during urination, or the frequent urge to urinate
- Psychological symptoms such as depression, mood swings, or panic attacks
- Reproductive symptoms such as painful periods, pelvic pain, or premature menopause
- Temporary hair loss, heart palpitations, and the benign overgrowth of tissue (lipomas) may also occur.
No one really knows what causes fibromyalgia. It is clustered with similar disorders, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which are believed to be caused by an excessive response of the central nervous system to otherwise normal stimuli.
People with fibromyalgia tend to unusually high concentrations of two chemicals, known as substance P and glutamate, in their body. Substance P is believed to transmit pain information to the brain, while glutamate transmits chemical messages from the brain to the rest of the body. By having such elevated levels of substance P and glutamate, the pain messages to and from the brain may effectively be over-exaggerated.
Similarly, a number of smaller studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia tend to have decreased blood flow to the thalamus, the section of the brain that acts as the center of pain perception. It is strongly believed that this may also contribute to the heightened pain perception.
While fibromyalgia is today recognized as a syndrome by the medical community, there remains debate as to whether it is a purely somatic (physical) disorder one that is influenced by depression, anxiety, sleep problems, or other concerns that can either enhance the perception of pain or directly affect neurological function.
At this stage, we simply don’t know. What we do know is that certain risk factors may increase the odds of getting fibromyalgia. Among them:
Women are nine times more like to have fibromyalgia than men. It has been suggested that decreases in estrogen during menstruation (particularly or at the onset of menopause) may trigger symptoms in some women.
Age is also a factor. Despite being considered a disorder affecting post-menopausal women, fibromyalgia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although symptoms usually develop several years prior. Children can also have fibromyalgia.
Stress appears to precipitate fibromyalgia symptoms. When accompanied by sleep problems, the perception of pain is further heightened as is the risk of fatigue and depression.
Genetics are also believed to be a factor. Research suggests that having a parent or sibling with fibromyalgia significantly increases your risk.
If you feel that you are experiencing symptoms of Fibromyalgia, please contact our office at 303-703-8583 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Andy Fine.